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Photo: NASA TV

The first flight planned for NASA's Space Launch System rocket hangs in the balance as the space agency reckons with a major test that didn't go as planned this weekend.

Why it matters: The billions of dollars over-budget SLS is key to NASA's plans to send people to the surface of the Moon by 2024 and for the agency's deep space exploration goals for years to come.

Catch up quick: The Saturday test — expected to be the last major milestone ahead of its first space flight planned for November — was designed to have all four engines of the rocket's core stage fire for eight minutes on the ground.

  • But the engines only fired for about 60 seconds before the test automatically aborted.
  • According to an update from NASA, the abort occurred due to conservatively set testing parameters, but all of the hardware, including the SLS engines and stage appear to be in good shape.
  • NASA hasn't yet decided whether it will need to rerun the test with its contractors — which include Boeing and Aerojet Rocketdyne — before shipping the rocket from Mississippi to Florida.
"We don't know what we don't know," NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said during a press conference after the test. "It's not everything we hoped it would be."

What's next: NASA isn't yet ruling out the idea of launching the SLS later this year.

  • "We are still shooting for a launch this year," NASA's head of human spaceflight Kathy Lueders said during a press conference Tuesday.
  • Even if the test had gone perfectly, the already delayed rocket was still working with little margin in its schedule.
  • Earlier this week, Lockheed Martin announced the Orion capsule it is building for the first SLS mission has been transferred to NASA ahead of flight.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Jan 26, 2021 - Science

Investment in the space industry overcame the pandemic's headwinds in 2020

A SpaceX launch in 2020. Photo: SpaceX

Investment in the space industry continued to grow in the last quarter of 2020, despite the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report from Space Capital.

Why it matters: The space industry turned out to be far more robust in the face of the pandemic than many experts were initially expecting.

Updated 27 mins ago - Sports

MLB enters first lockout since '95 as deal expires

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred (L) and Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Tony Clark. Photo: Matt King/MLB via Getty Images

Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement expired at 11:59 p.m. ET Wednesday without a new deal in place.

Why it matters: With no CBA, the MLB is in a management lockout — the first work stoppage since a 1994-95 strike led to the cancelation of the World Series for the first time in 90 years.

Media giants back Bannon's bid to release Jan. 6 documents

Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon at the FBI Washington Field Office in Washington, DC., in November. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

A coalition of news outlets including the Washington Post is supporting Stephen Bannon's campaign for the release of documents related to his contempt of Congress charges, WashPost reported Wednesday.

Why it matters: WashPost, the New York Times, CNN, NBC, the Wall Street Journal's parent company and others filed a motion arguing that a proposed protective order seeking to prevent the documents from being released violates the First Amendment, per the Daily Mail, which first reported on the news.

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